Thursday, August 22, 2013
This from Arminian Perspectives blog:
"So for Calvin and Piper, confidence of perseverance is tied up in being regenerate, and it is not at all clear how one can be sure she is regenerate unless she perseveres (to the end) in the faith (a problem of circularity that effectively kills assurance). So the bigger problem for Piper is that he cannot be sure that he will wake up every morning as a believer because his faith may, in fact, be spurious. The only way that he can have confidence that his bedtime faith is not spurious and that he will wake up each morning as a [true] believer is if he in fact wakes up each morning as a [true] believer. So he can have no real confidence at all that he will wake up tomorrow morning, or any other morning, as a believer. In short, he is guilty of wishful thinking and nothing more. Again, the main problem for Piper is how he can know that he is even going to bed a true believer and not a deluded hypocrite. There is simply no way to be sure of this if Calvinism is true."
I entirely agree with this blogger. There is a great deal in Reformed theology that destroys any possibility of assurance of your own right standing with God. You cannot make perseverance in faith a condition for assurance of your own salvation, since there is no way for you to know whether you will in fact keep on believing twenty years from now. You cannot make the cross a basis for assurance, since Christ only died for the elect, only God knows who the elect are, and you might be a deluded victim of what Calvin called "false faith" -- a false, non-saving faith that so closely mimics real faith that it is impossible for the person himself to tell them apart. The effect of Reformed doctrine in this area is to promote mystical and moral subjectivism -- I must be one of the elect because I had an experience, and because I am acting good today.
Thursday, June 13, 2013
I have been reading selected works by John Fletcher, John Wesley's close associate. I am amazed how confused he was about salvation by grace. Instead of recognizing that the Bible sometimes spoke of eternal life by law and in other places spoke of eternal life by grace (with the first being impossible for any sinner to attain), Fletcher and Wesley habitually compounded grace and law into one. So if a Bible passage spoke of eternal life by doing good -- say, Jesus' instructions to the rich young ruler who didn't think he was a sinner, or Paul's words about attaining eternal life through continuously doing good from Romans 2 -- they always assumed that these were talking about the Gospel! They seem completely blind to the fact that the Old testament Law also offered eternal life, on the condition of perfect obedience. As a result of their partisan biases and poor interpretive principles, Wesley and Fletcher confusedly mingled passages together that should have been kept distinct, like yoking a donkey to an oxen. Paul was clear that salvation was by faith from first to last (Romans 1:17). In their obsessive anxiety over the sin of lawlessness (which they called antinomianism), they ignore legalism. They preached that you started off your initial salvation by faith, but you attain final salvation by good works. But many of their opponents were hyper-Calvinists like the Rev. John Gill, so that made Wesley and Fletcher look better in contrast. Thy assumed that any time the Bible promised eternal life, it automatically was talking about the Gospel, and because of that fundamental error, they ended up preaching salvation by works.
Tuesday, April 09, 2013
There is a great deal of personality dysfunction that is rooted in foolish heart-attitudes. Bitterness, for example, warps the personality. Arrogance leads to violence. Just taking a pill isn't going to cure these things. Only repentance will work. But what about the unseen world? Messing around with the occult opens the mind up to demons. Demons are real, and they cause distortions of the mind and of moral desires and choices. The Gerasene demoniac would not have cut himself, or lived among the tombs, or been maniacally violent, except for his demonic possession. As soon as Christ cast out the evil spirits, his bizarre behaviors ceased. But thirdly: as long as our minds (which are spiritual, and not caused by our brains) are bonded to our bodies, then the sickness of our bodies can impact our minds. The Biblical doctrine of the fallenness of nature, combined with the Biblical view of man as a single, unitary being, means that there is such a thing as mental illness. The skeptic H.L. Mencken once wrote that for every complicated problem there is a simple, easy solution that is invariably wrong. We pastors often fall into this trap. We need to remember there are three possible explanations for mental dysfunction, and possibly a combination of all three. Sinful heart attitudes are one. Spiritual warfare is a second. Biological breakdown is a third. All three are real, and it isn't easy to discern what's going on. We should beware thinking in a simple-minded way.
Saturday, March 30, 2013
I am reading a really good book on the life and ministry of Francis Schaeffer, but in the middle of it I felt convicted. There are Christian ministers I admire, and Schaeffer was one of them. But I can be so easily tempted to cross a line, from feeling inspired by someone else's example, to feeling jealous of their achievements. God created the scope of Schaeffer's work for him. I should not compare myself to the scope of his accomplishments, or anyone's accomplishments. Sometimes ministers are held up to young Christian men with the idea that we should drive to imitate them. Billy Graham, Francis Schaeffer, D.L. Moody, John Piper, it could be anyone. It is good to see what was admirable about other ministers, and try to imitate their virtues. It is not good to covet the scope of their influence or breadth of accomplishment. It just now occurs to me that some of those judges in the book of Judges -- the ones you learn almost nothing about, or who judged for only short periods of time -- might turn out to have been better judges than the well-known ones like Gideon.
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Expository Bible preaching grates against the consumer tastes of our age. The expository preacher presents God's Word in an orderly way, explains the meaning, and then applies. Bible exposition presents the Bible in this way: "Life is about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Bible is the only way God has given us so that we can savingly know Him. This book is God's unique Word. So, not only will this book give you answers, it will also challenge you to ask different questions." Bible exposition respects the authority of God's Word. The consumer mentality says, "No, life is about me. Life is about my issues, my questions, my needs. And I define my own needs. Don't tell me to stand before the Bible as if I will ever answer to it. It's job, and your job, is to please me. So I will go hear someone who will speak to my issues, with the entertainment factor I enjoy, giving me answers that I like.", And so our topical series are tailored to suit that spirit. As a result, our people are spiritually weak, sick, and many are unconverted. Topical preaching is sometimes good for pulpit counseling, or when there's been a crisis in the community. But the difference between expository preaching and typical topical preaching is like the difference between whole-grain bread and Pop-Tarts. People like Pop-Tarts. Yes, there is some nutrition in a Pop-Tart. But whole-grain bread is better, if long-term health and vitality is your goal. The apostle Paul said, "I have not withheld from you the whole counsel of God."
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
What I've chosen to do is trim out a lot of old repetitive, or poorly-written posts from over the years, but leave better ones in place. I like my writing less as I go backward in time, but some of the old posts have been helpful to people (judging by the number of hits, and feedback I've received over the years). I plan to start a new blog that will be devoted to Bible helps and commentary, in contrast to this one which tends to be topical and more dealing with controversies. So I'll leave this one up, and add to it from time to time. Once I have the new website going, I'll let people know. If you wait until you're perfect to do something, you'll never to do anything.
Tuesday, February 05, 2013
Don't make it your ambition to be an organizational gadfly! Gadflys zip around, looking for places to land so they can bite or sting. I remember an outdoor pool at a farmhouse where we once stayed for vacation when I was a kid. It was right next to a horse pasture, and when the horses were grazing nearby, these horrible looking, hairy black horse-flies would try to land on us and bite us. We had to duck underneath the water to avoid them. That's the gadfly -- the chronic critic. People duck to get away from you, if they see you coming. People who are bright and analytic can be tempted to become gadflys, because they can see problems before other people do, or at least verbalize the complaints that others just dully feel. This is a pride trap, because you can make yourself feel like you're really something by constantly catching other people in their foibles. Gadflys seldom have a well-thought-out plan for positive reform. They just sting away at the faults of others, and make themselves feel smarter because they point their fingers better. Criticism, not as an emotional attribute but as a function of reason, is a necessary part of clear thinking. If we can't compare and contrast between bad, good, better, and best, nothing improves. But criticizing simply because it delights us is a strange, offensive form of self-indulgence.
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
There is an important difference between being a true church and being a mature church. The classic (and Biblical) definition of a church is the place where the Gospel is preached truly, the ordinances are celebrated truly, and spiritual-life training is happening. There are dozens of other problems that can plague a church, including indifference to the world, indifference to the poor, and indifference to local and global multiplication. And they are problems that all deserve fixing. But a true Christian church is just those three basic things. God has not given us the authority to add element upon element to the meaning of "true church" as a way of creating shame. That's no better than those who deliberately create shame and fear by preaching that only the totally-sold-out-to--Jesus are really born again.
Wednesday, January 09, 2013
Christianity is NOT "all grace, nothing but grace", used by worldly Christians as a justification for walking in sin. Titus 2:11-12 tells us that God's saving grace instructs us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires, and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in this present age. Godliness and righteousness in the Bible are defined by moral law. That means that God has imposed moral law -- commandments, not suggestions -- over us, governing our lives. Law-keeping is not legalism. Law-keeping for saving grace is legalism; law-keeping as the expression of love for God and neighbor is Christianity. The cure for religious legalism is not religious immorality!
Monday, January 07, 2013
http://theaquilareport.com/what-is-a-family-integrated-church/ This writer pinpoints the key problems I have with the movement.
Sunday, November 11, 2012
Older Christians are shocked by how permissive the younger-than-35 generation has become, as revealed by this latest presidential vote. I am convinced that one reason the younger generation has become OK with homosexuality, gay marriage, abortion, marijuana use, etc., is because of the rise of Libertarian philosophy. The further West you move in the U.S., the more Libertarian the country becomes. Secondly, the Christian churches have done almost nothing, in an orderly way, to persuade young people of the truth of the Bible or the need for faith. Our U.S. churches have wasted 30 years on idiocy like Pensacola Revivals, Brownsville Revivals, seeker-preaching, and other shallow fads. We preach Christ as the Great Facilitator of our lives as our lives already exist -- only the "Young, Restless, and Reformed" seem to be preaching for conversion. We need a new generation of Josh MacDowells, C.S. Lewises, Francis Scheffers, and Tim Kellers, who can build a persuasive pathway from where the <30 are, to where the Lord is; and others who will teach the Bible's absolute authority over every aspect of life, including social morals.
Monday, October 29, 2012
The verse which promises that God can do more than we can even think protects us from the nonsensical, New-Agey teaching that we must "visualize" our prayers. Thank the Lord that He can answer my prayers perfectly, even when my poor brain can't imagine what He'll do or how He'll do it! We do not control God's power. This is the greatest blasphemy of the Pentecostal word-of-power cult. God never subjects Himself to our thoughts or words. He is King, we serve and we make requests.
Friday, October 19, 2012
Here is a Calvinist's conflict. Reformed theology teaches that God can single-handedly convert anyone to Christ. This doctrine is called "monergism", from mono (one) + erg (work), one work as opposed to two or more working together. This implies that God could, if He chose to, convert the entire human race to Christ. But God has chosen not to do this. He does not convert everyone to Christ, thus leaving them in their state of condemnation. But then this means that God does not want everyone to be saved. This appears to contradict Scripture (e.g. John 3:16, 1 Timothy 2:1-5.)
Calvinism has tried to reconcile this in a number of ways. One way has been to deny that any verses in which "all" or "world" appear mean "all/every person without exception", or that "world" doesn't mean, "all persons." A.W. Pink once infamously wrote that "world" in John 3:16 meant "world of the elect." I believe Baptist theologian John Gill once wrote the same idea. Pretty much everyone I have read, including Reformed theologians, consider that exegetically wrong.
Another way around the problem is to say that God has twin wills -- one will as stated in the Bible, and one will concealed in God's secret counsel. Calvinist authors (such as John Piper) promote this solution. Pharaoh is an illustration of this distinction. God told Pharaoh through Moses to let the Israelites go, but intended to harden Pharaoh's already wicked heart, in order to make an example out of him.
The Pharaoh example is a valid illustration of the principle. However, you might also be playing with fire, because this principle can raise doubts about God's sincerity. It would be necessary to limit this idea of two wills to God's dealings with reprobates -- sinners upon whom the Lord has already determined to vent his holy wrath. Also, in the case of Pharaoh, God was issuing a command, not making a promise.
A doctrine of two contradicting wills could run riot. For example, why not say that verses about God loving His people are also modified by two wills? Meaning, that the Bible might say that God loves us, but, because God has two wills, God does not love some of us? That would be horrible. It seems to me that an unlimited principle of two opposed wills in God solves a few issues, but could create more. It would undermine faith in the promises.
A third resolution is "paradox", which often seems to me to be a theological punt. I think of a paradox as a literary device, wordplay, not a thing that really exist.
I think I prefer a solution that a French theologian named Girardeau wrote many years ago, which is that God has a basic disposition to save, but that in regard to a wicked world God also chooses how and where to act on it. God's disposition is love, but we also know God judges (often very harshly, as you know if you have ever read the Old Testament). God is a loving, saving God and a choosing God at the same time.
So, rather than saying that God has two wills -- using a problematically ambiguous use of the word "will" -- isn't it better to say that God has a basic disposition to save? Then, at the same time, affirm that the Bible also says that God's basic disposition is righteous, and as a result He does not acquit the wicked. From that premise, one could equally argue that there is a "conflict" between verses that say God saves us, vs. verses that say that God does not acquit the wicked.
God, as Savior, issues a general call to everyone without exception that they should come to Christ. God, as chooser, foreknows and predestines a lesser number to be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). This is not two equivalent wills, one saying "yes" and the other saying "no." Rather, this is how God, who already knows that the human race is wicked and won't listen to Him, vindicates His mercy by calling all to salvation.
His basic disposition to save is expressed in the Gospel call to everyone; His equally-real nature as the royal God of righteousness who chooses upon whom to bestow mercy is expressed through election. This is a distinction between God's different personal attributes, and how God as a voluntary being chooses to act, rather than a philosophical construct of two wills. Also, the Arminian still cannot explain how or why a world of evil people in bondage to their own wicked lusts can respond to the Gospel call apart from the effectual drawing work of the heavenly Father. This remains the Arminian's dilemma, regardless of how the Calvinist works to resolve tensions between different parts of his own beliefs
Monday, October 08, 2012
Because ministry to other people involves other people, and other people are unpredictable, you cannot connect practical success to whether someone has been empowered by the Holy Spirit for Christian service.
I don't mean utter failure. A "healer" who can't heal a sick headache isn't a healer, obviously. A preacher who consistently makes hash out of Bible texts, and whom people can't even understand, isn't anointed to preach. Paul said to the Corinthians that they were his certificate of ministry authenticity, in letters written by the Spirit on their hearts. So there needs to be some clear evidence of the Spirit's gifts.
But ministry to people isn't some sort of magic that just rolls. There can be a huge gap between Spirit-empowerment and human response. God supported Elijah with a mighty miracle of fire that consumed the carcass and licked up the water in the trench. The people shouted "Yahweh is Lord!" and killed the wicked prophets of Baal. But then Jezebel vowed to assassinate Elijah, Elijah had to flee and was so depressed he wanted to die, Ahab never did repent, Jezebel got thrown out a tower window to her death, and Babylon ended up invading Israel years later anyway.
God clearly anointed Jeremiah to be His prophet, and everybody in Jerusalem hated him. God anointed Ezekiel to be His prophet, and though the Jews in exile didn't try to kill him, they only pretended to like his preaching. Meanwhile, Ezekiel saw in visions that the priests back in Jerusalem were worshiping gods and committing sex-acts in the Temple.
Human beings are unpredictable and very subjective. This is why we should't judge the Holy Spirit's anointing by things like popularity, money, or numbers.